Daily Egyptian

SIU women’s basketball survives Redbird comeback to finish central Illinois sweep

Senior+guard+Rishonda+Napier+puts+up+a+shot+as+Missouri+State+freshman+guard+Alexa+Willard+and+senior+guard+Lexi+Hughes+watch+during+SIU%E2%80%99s+78-60+loss+to+the+Bears+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+15%2C+2017%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+Napier+led+SIU+in+scoring+with+22+points.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29
Senior guard Rishonda Napier puts up a shot as Missouri State freshman guard Alexa Willard and senior guard Lexi Hughes watch during SIU’s 78-60 loss to the Bears on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at SIU Arena. Napier led SIU in scoring with 22 points. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior guard Rishonda Napier puts up a shot as Missouri State freshman guard Alexa Willard and senior guard Lexi Hughes watch during SIU’s 78-60 loss to the Bears on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at SIU Arena. Napier led SIU in scoring with 22 points. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior guard Rishonda Napier puts up a shot as Missouri State freshman guard Alexa Willard and senior guard Lexi Hughes watch during SIU’s 78-60 loss to the Bears on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at SIU Arena. Napier led SIU in scoring with 22 points. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Sean Carley

The win didn’t come as easily as the halftime score would have indicated, but SIU came home Sunday night happy.

The Saluki women’s basketball team withstood a 16-point second half comeback against Illinois State, holding off the Redbirds in Normal, 63-56.

After holding a 15-point halftime lead, the Salukis came out ice cold, making only one field goal in the first six minutes of the third quarter. This allowed the Redbirds to get within five points of SIU.

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Redbirds senior guard Brechelle Beachum scored half of her team-high 12 points in the third to help lead the comeback.

Despite this, SIU (10-10, 4-5 Missouri Valley Conference) stood tall in the fourth quarter thanks to its experienced leaders. Senior guard Rishonda Napier and junior guard Kylie Giebelhausen scored 12 of SIU’s 14 points in the final quarter, but the one basket they didn’t make in the quarter was perhaps the most crucial.

After the Redbirds cut the lead to one point, freshman forward Nicole Martin hit a jump shot while being fouled. She then missed the free throw, but Giebelhausen picked up the offensive rebound to force Illinois State (5-15, 2-7 MVC) to foul to extend the game.

Napier and Giebelhausen had stellar overall games with 20 and 18 points respectively.

The Salukis hit four of their last six free throws to clinch the game. Free throws were not a strength for the Salukis throughout the game, as they made just 14 of their 25 attempts (56 percent).

SIU built its big lead early with some incredible defense. The Salukis held the Redbirds to just 34.8 percent shooting overall and 16.7 percent from behind-the-arc.

Illinois State’s 20 first half points were the fewest allowed by SIU in a single half against a Division I opponent this year.

Senior forward Kim Nebo left her mark in the first half, scoring nine of her 13 points. She also added 14 rebounds for her seventh career double-double.

The Salukis look to continue their success at 6 p.m. Friday when they attempt to end Drake’s current undefeated Valley run.

Staff writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

To stay up to date with all your SIU basketball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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